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Monday, 25 August 2014

Doctor Who: Deep Breath


“Shush”. Peter Capaldi's first line in the new series of Doctor Who heralds the start of his era as the Time Lord. All evidence in this opening episode indicates his Doctor is going to be a shade darker than his predecessors from the moment he, Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the TARDIS are spewed forth from inside a giant dinosaur and onto our screens.

 'Deep Breath' was an altogether solid start to the series. The Doctor and Clara end up in Victorian London with a slight T-Rex problem to add to their regeneration woes. Before long, it becomes clear there is something more sinister afoot and they are soon investigating (albeit separately at first) cases of spontaneous combustion alongside Jenny, Vastra and Strax who are on hand to help Clara come to terms with her new, erratic Doctor.


The pace and drive of the story occasionally buckle under the weight of the feature-length running time but a gripping tale about organ-harvesting automatons isn't really what writer/showrunner Steven Moffat and director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) had to achieve in this outing. That is not to say that the episode itself isn't entertaining; it very definitely is. There are some genuinely scary Moffat moments as eyes are lusted after and clockwork henchmen close in. We even have time for affectionate backwards glances to earlier episodes The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink (deep breath, don't blink). Add to that some seriously impressive special effects - not just the fantastic T-Rex but also the flares as Clara tries to escape The Half-Face Man's ship – and this episode has an awful lot to enjoy for die-hard and casual viewers alike.

However, 'Deep Breath' is all about regeneration and, in this, it met my every expectation. Permeated by themes of rebuilding and change from the new credit sequence onwards, Moffat has managed to shift the tone of the show admirably to make way for Capaldi and he writes his Doctor brilliantly. The dialogue between The Doctor and Clara also manages to show Coleman's companion in a new light, as the relatively few scenes the two have together sing with an energy that tells of plenty of conflict and drama to come.


The main draw of this episode (and perhaps of this new series, dare I say) is, of course, our new Doctor – Peter Capaldi. Although much of the episode focused on Clara's reaction to his 'renewal',  there was a sense that everyone watching was waiting to see what his Doctor would be like...

Confused post-regeneration, Capaldi's Doctor would apparently rather speak to horses than humans, calls us all pudding brains and doesn't seem to be particularly fond of doors, bedrooms or his own eyebrows. He's not a hugger and he may not be much of a fetcher either, although that remains to be seen. It is somewhat of a shame that much of the episode seems desperate to reassure us that he is still The Doctor despite his physical 'age' because the best scenes are unarguably the ones where Capaldi is just allowed to get on with it.  Undoubtedly born for this role, it is a delight to see him energetically bounce from rage to humour to vulnerability within the first scene alone.

I think we're going to love him. I suspect I already do.

Doctor Who Continues 7.30pm on Saturday on BBC ONE.

Contributed by Jane Harrison 

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